Seniors establish local chapter of Junior State of America

Board members emphasize importance of political club in high school setting

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Photos courtesy of Pranavi Pitchyaiah and Neeza Singh

Seniors Pranavi Pitchyaiah and Neeza Singh founded the Lafayette Branch of the Midwest Cabinet of JSA. The girls hope the club will give students a way to voice political opinions in a safe environment.

Jack Daws, Staff Reporter

Junior State of America (JSA) is a non-partisan political organization in high schools across America. The Lafayette chapter of the organization was established this year by seniors Neeza Singh, president, and Pranavi Pitchyaiah, vice president.

Lafayette’s chapter of JSA was founded in March of 2020 and has been a member of the Midwest cabinet of JSA since July of 2020.

“We didn’t see any clubs that were non-partisan and catered towards politics so we decided to start [the JSA]. We wanted a way to get more political engagement in our school,” Pitchyaiah said.

The JSA seeks to encourage teenagers to be politically aware and active. They facilitate this through interactions such as debates, thought topics, activism projects and team fundraising.

In addition to founding the LHS chapter at Lafayette, both Singh and Pitchyaiah hold leadership positions.

“My main job is to communicate with the Midwest level JSA department about how our own chapter is doing. I also supervise debates and encourage other executive board members to carry out their tasks,” Singh said.

Pitchyaiah also holds some responsibilities for the clubs, although they are typically more focused on their own meetings rather than interacting with the whole Midwest chapter of JSA.

“As Vice President, I help organize meetings, pick topics for debate and record all of our meetings, as well as share some responsibilities with Neeza,” Pitchyaiah said.

Both Pitchyaiah and Singh appreciate the opportunities available to them through JSA.

“I love being able to hear new perspectives. It’s very easy to dismiss the opinions of others and assume we are right, especially right now. JSA gives me a way to learn what motivates people for their own beliefs,” Pitchyaiah said.

Pitchyaiah also stressed the importance of the open-mindedness of the organization.

“The casual feel and interactiveness of the club helps to alleviate any stress of being ostracized, and I just really love having the opportunity to listen to other people speak,” she said.

Both members believe the environment of JSA is one that feels safe enough for every member to express their own political beliefs.

“I love how I can be completely unfiltered about my political and societal opinions and can have friendly debates without them getting ugly,” Singh said.

Despite the switch to online learning throughout the district, the club has managed to stay active, with bi-weekly meetings on Zoom, which are used to hold debates and thought talks.

“Once we’re back in in-person school, we could do more in-person debates and also be able to attend JSA conventions with other chapters across the Midwest,” Singh said.

Pitchyaiah and Singh said the group provides a great opportunity for students who wish to be more politically active within the school setting.

“I feel like having conversations about our society now will help us become more informed citizens later on,” Singh said.

The JSA will be holding virtual meetings every other Monday, including Nov. 30.

“If anyone wants to join, they can just come to a meeting; access to our GroupMe is in our Instagram bio,” Pitchyaiah said.

The official Instagram page for the Lafayette JSA is @lafayettejsa.

Anyone wishing to get involved can also reach out to the other executive board members: seniors Jeffrey Chan and Ana Diaz-Granados or  juniors Thrisha Kosaraju, Natalia Parr and Zareefah Khan. The JSA sponsor is Social Studies Department Chair Krista Silvernail.